Mezzo - Soprano  Fiorenza  Cossotto
==  and  ==
Bass  Ivo  Vinco

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


cossottoBorn on April 22, 1936 in Crescentino, Province of Vercelli, Italy, Fiorenza Cossotto attended the Turin Academy of Music and graduated top of her class. After her studies with Mercedes Llopart, she made her operatic debut as Sister Matilde in the world premiere of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites in 1957 at La Scala in Milan. Her international debut was at the 1958 Wexford Festival as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti's Anna Bolena. Her Covent Garden debut was in 1959 as Neris in Cherubini's Médée, with Maria Callas in the title role. A 1962 performance of the lead in La favorita at La Scala led to wider fame and she made her American debut in the same role in 1964 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and as Amneris at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968.

She was considered an expert in portrayals of major mezzo/contralto roles in mid-19th-century Italian opera; e.g. Favorita, Amneris, Azucena, Eboli, Preziosilla, Maddalena, Ulrica and Laura. She also essayed Carmen, Mozart's Cherubino, Urbain in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, Bellini's Romeo and Marfa in Khovantschina.

In 2005 she celebrated her 70th birthday with a performance of Suor Angelica at the Théâtre Royal in Liège, Belgium.

She was married to the Italian bass Ivo Vinco for over 40 years (ending in divorce). Their only child was a son, Roberto.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


It is not that they were always a team, but from the beginning of their careers, managements around the world recognized the importance of bringing these two singers together, whether or not they were always appearing in the same operas.  Each one was a dynamic and forceful individual, and together they added a special spark to the totality.

Their American debuts were in Chicago in 1964, and, as shown in the chart below, they returned to Lyric Opera for a total of ten seasons.  As always, names that are links both in the text and the chart refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website. 

It was during their 1983 visit that I had the chance to sit down with the pair to discuss their artistry.  As happens with people who are completely comfortable with each other, the conversation freely passed back and forth, and often both would be speaking at the same time.  I have done my best to sort it all out, and my special thanks go to Marina Vecci of Lyric for her masterful handling of the translation.

It all began, naturally, while I was setting up to record the proceedings, and we pick up the chat in the midst of a discussion of newspaper reviews . . . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    What is the role of the critic?

Fiorenza Cossotto:    It is very difficult role because in order to do the work of the critic well, one has to be extremely sensitive and one has to be extremely well prepared.  For me it the critic must be constructive.

BD:    Are critics always constructive?

FC:    Basically the critic tends to only criticize the final result, not knowing that the artist might sometimes do something that is not right or not good for many reasons.  Sometimes he or she is not feeling particularly well that evening, or he or she is acting and singing under circumstances that are beyond the artist’s control.  We might be in a costume that makes it impossible to sing right or move right or breathe right.  Sometimes we are wearing a costume which is too heavy and doesn’t let you do what you wanted to do. 

Ivo Vinco:    In order to give a reasoned criticism of the work, the critic really should attend some of the rehearsals and the preparation of the work to see where the artist
’s responsibility begins and ends in this particular production, instead of just hitting the artist without taking all these other things into consideration.

cossottoFC:    However, it is perfectly logical that the critic has to judge what he sees.  It makes perfect sense that the critic has only the final product to judge.

BD:    Should the public be conscious of the heavy costumes and the tight throat, and all these other things?

FC:    Certainly because they do represent a lot of problems for the artist itself.  When they’re doing a role, in order to do it very well the artists should think exclusively of the character, the voice, the way of singing, and how enter.  They should not have all those other problems.

BD:    Then how do you resolve conflicts then between the idea of the character and  any particular production?

Both:    There’s always a compromise or there is always a confrontation.  It’s just like in politics!  [All laugh]  There are costume designers and people that have part in designing or directing the production who understand the problems and difficulties of the singers, and help try to work in such a way that helps them.  Then there are others who just are very stubborn about their own concept, and do nothing to help a singer.  We have worked with the greatest directors of the time
Zeffirelli, Visconti, de Lullo, Strehlerand those were always the ones who would co-operate more with the artist, and always ask if they were comfortable in whatever dramatic or costume situation.

BD:    Are there productions that have gone too far?

IV:    They still talk about this enormous Norma in Bonn...  

FC:    On the stage there is supposed to be a forest.  There was no forest on the stage in this production, but there were two plants.  There were also factories joined by an iron bridge that looks like any of today
’s mechanical bridges that trucks would come up.  And instead of being priestesses, Norma and Adalgisa were two partisans in the Resistance, and the Romans were Nazis with the machine guns.  Pollione says, Where are you running to? and she answers, I’m going to the temple.  I’m going to the sacred altars.  In fact she was actually running towards the factory!  [All burst out laughing]

BD:    Is there anything good about that kind of a production?

Both:    Absolutely not!  The only actual good thing that came of that production was that the public could listen to the beautiful music of Norma.  But other than that, there was no other redeeming quality.  There was a beautiful production and the most definitive production of Norma that we both sang in was the one in Paris in 1965 with Callas.  We were there, and it was just a magnificent thing in terms of production.  The sets were modern but they were romantic in concept.

BD:    So there should be new ideas within the old concepts?

FC:    One should always try to respect the ideas of the composers who, in this case, was a genius.

IV:    It is very possible to give new ideas to the melodrama and renew it while staying within the traditional.

BD:    You say you should respect the ideas of the composer who is a genius.  What if you’re doing opera by a second or third-rate composer?

FC:    Then you would need a genius as a director, and great voices, good musical direction.  These are the supplies then rescue it!

IV:    Also, one would hope there has also been some sort of a well-made choice for the librettist.  Someone must have chosen him for some good reason, so it has to be accepted and made the best of.  You cannot substitute the interpreter for the author.  You have to start from something, otherwise you don’t need the author!  You could just have the interpreter doing the whole thing, and that would be a concert.

BD:    On that subject, is there any sense in doing concert opera?

IV:    Oh yes.  Certain operas can be done that way if you have economical problems in the way of scenery, etc.

FC:    Not all operas can be done in a concert version.

cossottoIV:    Right, but there are some operas.  For instance, I did a concert opera in Moscow and it was a beautiful, great success. 

FC:    We were on tour with Hamburg Opera, and the company brought in three fully staged operas, and two concerts.  The one concert was really very well received, and had more success almost than any fully-staged operas.

BD:    Let me go one step further from concert operas and ask about recordings.  What is the place of recordings in society?  [Pause for a moment]  An easy question...

FC:    [Quietly]  Yes, an easy question! 

IV:    These days, recordings are only artificial.  It’s solely a commercial thing.

BD:    Is it art at all?

FC:    Not so much!

IV:    Twenty per cent is art!  [Laughter all around]  There is a very curious thing happening right now in Europe and in Italy, and that is a great revival of old recordings taken from live performances with artists who are now dead.  So you don’t have to pay royalties to such artists because they are no longer around.  All the best performances in major theaters in Italy and Europe are now being sold, and they are very much sought after.

BD:    Are these great performances?

IV:    Yes, great, very much so.  A lot of them are of Callas of twenty years ago.

BD:    And we’ve learned from those?

FC:    Sure, because they are live performances and they’re not artificial.  They’re losing today in the recording companies, and you can really have an idea of what one voice sounded like in terms of volume and power compared to the other ones via these live performances.  Also, they are left with the flaws that the performer had at that particular performance, so by listening to this live performance on record a young artists can learn how to overcome certain particular problems that do reoccur.  Commercial recordings are cut-and-paste.  On the live tapes they didn’t cut anything.  On commercial records we’ve seen all kinds of things... like the sopranos who have sung like mezzo sopranos, baritones have sung like tenors, basses have sung like everything else.  Everything has just happened for a commercial reason.

IV:    Yes, because it is a fact that they compromise.  Callas, Tebaldi, Del Monaco, De Stefano,
Gobbi, and these other great singers no long exist, but the fact remains that people are still looking for and buying often recordings by them!  Those records are more than twenty years old, and the records made three years ago by the big recording companies, are no longer sold.  They go out of print so fast today.

BD:    Were the stars back then better than today, or just different?

FC:    They used to go onto the stage only when they were very well prepared.  They prepared their role thoroughly before going on stage, whereas now they simply do the same things over and over.  To do a record you just cut and paste and repeat.  You don’t need to be so perfect in your performance.  Recordings can be fixed up.

BD:    Are we losing the tradition?

FC:    No, no.  All these serious people do not study too much, but what they do is serious.  There are some very serious performers who are holding the tradition and always study.  They are always well prepared, and they do more than just exploit the publicity.

IV:    The greatest enemy of art today is the publicity and the enormous commercialism. 

BD:    Is there nothing good about Pavarotti singing for millions and millions of people?

IV:    Yeah, this is good for opera because now opera is known to millions of people who might otherwise never know about it.

BD:    But are they getting the right idea of what opera is?

FC:    Certainly at least they have some notion.

IV:    Pavarotti is a great artist with publicity or without publicity.   

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Is opera art or is opera entertainment?

cossottoFC:     It is art and entertainment!  [Everyone laughs]  The public is enthusiastic.  There are many times in which conditions are perfect, when I am doing a role I like and I am perfectly comfortable with the staging and the costuming and with the production itself.  Then I feel I have something joyful to communicate to others and I transmit this joy.  On a day when this is not the same, the same joy could not be communicated.

BD:    Is there a joy even when a character is being killed or raped?

IV:    She dies in La Favorita in the fourth act.  There’s nothing better than dying while singing!  [Much laughter]

BD:    You’re a bass, so would you rather kill or be killed?

IV:    When I sang Rigoletto in Chicago, I did a student performance, which I’m very much in favor of because I like to sing for the young people.  It’s very important because you build up new customers for the opera.  I remember this situation when I was doing Sparafucile.  I killed Gilda during the performance, but the students thought I was killing the tenor, who was the corrupt character, so I was making justice.  They didn’t realize that I was killing Gilda, and when they realized that it was Gilda that I had killed, they were greatly disappointed!  After all, it was a very dramatic killing.

BD:    Is it more fun for the two of you when you’re both singing the same opera?

FC:    It’s better when we both sing in the same opera so that each of us will think it is our own performance.  In the case when only one is singing, the other one worries for the one who is singing, and it makes it very much harder.

BD:    Do you worry about him?

FC:    I’m always worried because we’re human and things can always happen.  Sometimes things can go wrong.

BD:    Do you worry about her?

IV:    A lot!

FC:    He’s like a lion in the cage.

IV:    I pace up and down and come back into the dressing room, then I go up on stage to look at her and I just feels anxious.  It is worse when we are singing in different places, like when I was doing Sparafucile here, she was singing in Hamburg.  It was much worse being so far apart.

FC:    We chose not only a life as singers but also as husband and wife, so we had to reconcile these two things and stay together.

BD:    Are you very careful about that, and do you try to schedule some vacation for both of you together?

Both:    Yes, for the good of our family we’re trying to always be careful with the schedule.  We’ve been together twenty-five years, and we feel like we’re heroes at their age!  [Both laugh]  It’s very important one of us renounces some roles in favor of following the other.  We have been very lucky the way that managers of the theaters have always understood the fact that we are both singers. 

FC:    The first time when I came to the Lyric Opera, the manager made that possible for Ivo to go too.  She realized that it would be the perfect thing for both of us to be singing at the same time so we wouldn’t be separated for a long time. 

Cossotto and Vinco at Lyric Opera of Chicago

1964 - [Opening Night]  Trovatore (Vinco - American Debut) with Ligabue, Corelli, Zanasi, Bumbry; Bartoletti
            Favorita (Both - Her American Debut) with Kraus, Bruscantini; Cillario
            Don Carlo (Cossotto) with Gencer, Tucker, Gobbi, Ghiaurov, Marangoni, Michalski; Bartoletti

1965 - Aïda (Both) with Price/Lee, Lamberti, Bastianini/Colzani, Cillario
            Rigoletto (Vinco) with MacNeil/Bruscantini, Scotto, Kraus, Cassei; Bartoletti

1966 - Gioconda (Both) with Suliotis, Cioni, Guelfi, Zilio; Sanzogno

1968 - Norma (Both) with Suliotis, Cecchele; Sanzogno

1969 - Cavalleria Rusticana (Cossotto) with Tagliavini, Guelfi, Krebill, Garabedian-George; Bartoletti
            Barber of Seville (Vinco) with Horne, Bruscantini, Garaventa, Evans, Curry; Pritchard, Gobbi

1971 - Rigoletto (Vinco) with Cappuccilli, Robinson, Kraus, Zanibelli; Bartoletti
            Don Carlo (Cossotto) with Lorengar, Cossutta, Milnes, Ghiaurov, Sotin, Estes; Bartoletti, Mansouri

1974 - Favorita (Both) with Kraus, Cappuccilli, Zilio; Rescigno

1983 - [Opening Night]  Aïda (Cossotto) with Tomowa-Sintow, Pavarotti/Giacomini, Wixell, Giaotti, Kavrakos, Negrini; Bartoletti, Tallchief

1986-87 - Ballo in Maschera (Both) with Chiara, Pavarotti/Sebastian, Cappuccilli, Blackwell, Kaasch; Bartoletti, Frisell, Conklin

1992-93 - Ballo in Maschera (Cossotto) with Voigt, Jóhannsson, Chernov, Blackwell; Buckley, Frisell, Conklin

BD:    Even if you’re not in the same opera?

FC:    Even if we’re not in the same opera.  We felt that the marriage was good if we were both happy being together, and the performances would be better for both operas in which we were appearing.  

BD:    They were very lucky that you weren’t about to get divorced because then both performances would have suffered! 

FC:    We’ve been very careful to divide things, to keep our private lives separate from our professional work... even if there are problems.  [Huge laugh from both]

BD:    [To Mr. Vinco, with a gentle nudge]  Have you ever wanted to kill a tenor who was paying too much attention to her?

IV:    [With a big smile]  Me, personally, no.  I never did, but my son wanted to when he was three years old.   When he went to see Carmen for the first time he said to me,
I’m going to kill that guy, meaning the tenor...

cossottoFC:    ...because he said he saw him with a knife standing behind me wanting to kill me.  After the performance, he asked this gentleman who was carrying him on his shoulders,
Is my mother really dead???  He was very, very upset, and he kept telling me on the way home, You didn’t see, but he was hiding a knife!

IV:    Also, when we did Trovatore at La Scala he was about a year and a half old.  He came to the stage and he could hear his mother’s voice but he couldn’t recognize her under the disguise of Azucena.  [See photo at right]  So he was very scared by this strange person who had his mother’s voice but looked totally different.  Having a son was a big problem for our singing careers, but now he’s a big boy and out of the house.

BD:    Have you encouraged him to go into opera, or to stay away from opera?

FC:    He has a beautiful voice and he loves opera, but he doesn’t want to go into opera.

BD:    Have you encouraged him to stay away from opera?

FC:    No, no, no.  We realize that he has an exceptional voice, an incredible voice.  He has a big voice, kind of a baritone or dramatic tenor kind of voice, and we tried to tell him at least to do a chorus audition or do something with your voice because it is so beautiful.  But he said to me,
Mama, I want the music but I do not want to be in the singing profession.  I want music but I don’t like singers’ profession because I see how much they made you suffer for it!  So he wants to stay away.  But whatever road he takes, he has an excellent ear, an incredible ear for music, and is a very good listener.  But he doesn’t want to get into the business of opera.

BD:    Do you enjoy the business of opera?

FC:    It is a business that we enjoy because it has given us a lot.  It also makes us endure a lot of suffering. 

IV:    And joy!  It has taken a lot out of us, but we cannot do anything else so we have to stay with it.  All the singers who have tried to find some other job have failed, so they have to stick with that.

BD:    Is there more suffering in the operatic career than in a business career?

FC:    Sure.  The artists deal with the sensitivity and feelings which the music carries.  Real life deals with other emotions, or non-emotions, whereas in opera you deal with emotions most of the time.  Anything can really affect you.  The smallest thing can affect you on the day of a performance and take away from your top shape and what you would want to be at that performance.

BD:    Is it possible to give a hundred per cent every time?

FC:    Never.  No one is able to, but it’s something you aim for.  

IV:    There are nerves and internal worries and outside worries and anxiety.  Then there is the physiological side of it, and you’re getting away from your top form for whatever reason.  Sometimes it’s too hot, sometimes it’s too cold, and you have allergy that is there and is flaring up.  You’re never in perfect condition.  All of those things have to be reckoned with and calmed in a performance.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Do you sing differently in big houses and small houses?

IV:    It doesn’t make any difference because you sing the same way.  You have as much as you have to give, whatever the size of the theater, whether they’re big in terms of size or the importance.

BD:    [Gently protesting]  You sing the same at La Scala and Piccola Scala???

cossottiFC:    But in the Piccola Scala you sing small works where the music is very soft!

BD:    Chamber operas?

FC:    Chamber operas, yes.  In the beginning of our careers we sang a lot at Piccola Scala, because they were doing repertoire of the 1700s.  We sang with Freni, Luigi Alva, with Sciutti...

IV:    We started in a different repertory at the beginning of our careers, and now we sing grand opera, so we tend to be singing in large houses.  Back then we did a lot of Mozart.  We’ve also sung Wagner, French opera, and a lot of different repertory.  Now we mostly get requests from theaters was for a certain kind of repertory, and in her case it is mostly Verdi.  

BD:    When you sang Wagner, did you do it in Italian or German?

IV:    I sang many, many roles in Italian with the old Maestro Tullio Serafin.  I have sung six or seven Wagner roles, and it’s an old tradition in Italy, in Palermo, in Bologna, in Trieste, to sing these operas in Italian because Wagner composed in his day many times in Venice, in Bologna, in Palermo.  Because Wagner stayed and composed there, the tradition in those cities where he stayed are to sing his operas in Italian.  For instance, in Palermo they do a lot more Wagner than they do in Milan, usually once a year or once every two years.  At La Scala they have haven’t been doing Wagner very often... maybe more just now because of the centenary of his death.

BD:    Do you enjoy being a bass, or would you rather be a baritone or a tenor?

IV:    All singers would probably like to be a different kind of singer than what they are!  This is because all the singers I’ve ever known have wanted to do the very dramatic roles.  Of course, some are doing them even though their voice is not right for them.  I’ve done some comic roles such as Dulcamara, but I believe the ideal role for a bass is Philip II in Don Carlo.

BD:    Would you ever sing that in French?

IV:    I’ve never had the chance, but I would.  I sang this role with Serafin for the first time.  Verdi wrote it in both the Italian and in the French.  The first time it was in French, but the second version in Italian is an authentic and an original version.  

FC:    I’ve done the French edition, but in Italian which sort of defeated the whole purpose of doing the French version. 

Verdi, Donizetti and Rossini were very much always coming and going from France, or they were much in touch with French culture, so it was easy to do those versions, to go back and forth.  They had to accommodate the French theater and the Italian theater, so it was easy for them to do things in both versions.  But generally, all operas are better in the original language.  Carmen in Italian is horrible...

FC:    ...because the music is very much united.  The word goes with the harmony of the music, and if you’re interrupting the middle of a musical phrase because of a word ending in some way or other, that’s different from the original idea.  Sometimes translations do really betray what the music says.

BD:    Then you turn down requests for engagement to sing, for example, Carmen, in Italian?

FC:    I have done it in the past, and just lately I turned it down. 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Do you enjoy twentieth century music?

Both:    Yes.  We like it particularly when there are very good interpreters of this music.  It’s very good to listen to.  There are also some very good musicians.  

IV:    For instance, Peter Grimes, but would you put it in the category of contemporary music?  Jon Vickers is marvelous.

FC:    I liked that very much, and the Wozzeck that was done here.  

vincoIV:    Also Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk.  It’s modern, it’s contemporary but still we’re talking in Puccini’s time, and in this time and this period composers still wrote for the voice.

BD:    Do composers not write for the voice now?

IV:    Absolutely not!   No!

FC:    They have in their minds and they think of the human voice more as a means of reciting drama and theater, with no melody.  The voice is written like a musical instrument, and interpreters tend to be more actors or actresses than singers.

BD:    You don’t want to be thought of as a clarinet? 

FC:    No, a cello!  [Much laughter all around]

IV:    It’s very hard on the voice because the human voices cannot jump up and down the way modern composers require them to. 

FC:    There is also modern music that does require very special kinds of voices, and there are very good and very interesting performances by musicians and interpreters today. 

IV:    Sometimes I hear some voices and some pieces that are wonderful, but if I tried to do that I’d be without a voice in an hour!

FC:    But one admires them for the skill and the ability that they have in interpreting these scores.  There are interpreters of modern music with exceptional skills...

IV:    ...who are great musicians.

BD:    Are there some rolls that you have not sung that you would dearly love to sing?  Or one that you sang a long, long time ago and haven’t sung for twenty years?

FC:    I would like to sing more Mozart, such as Così fan Tutte.  I would like to sing Cherubino again, which I sang at La Scala, and Così fan Tutte, or Lucio Silla of Mozart.  It’s a very difficult role, and I would rather not sing it because it’s a for a counter-tenor.  When I was very young, a conductor told me it’s a marvelous part, a beautiful role for me!  He sent me the music, and when I finally saw it I could see this was a very high part.  There is a recording of it.  There was only one performance in a concert version, and it gives me chills to listen to that recording.  I was totally irresponsible then and didn’t know what I was doing!  [Laughs]


IV:    Mozart wrote that opera when he was sixteen years old!  He was an ‘enfant terrible’ when he wrote that one for the voice!  [More laughter]

BD:    You’ve done a few men’s roles, such as Cherubino.  Do you like playing the man on stage?

FC:    I have done the Page in The Huguenots, the Page in Mignon, and then I’ve done Cherubino.  I also did the Child of Boris.  All of these were at La Scala.

IV:    The first time I saw her she was dressed like a man!

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    What advice do you have for a young singer who is just trying to get into the business?

FC:    I don’t know!  [Much laughter]  I love the opera very much, but it is much work.  Also you suffer much because you always want to be perfect, you always wanting to give more.  There are no limits  It’s very hard for me to give any advice because it’s a kind of work in which there are no ways of limiting yourself.  You always have to give and to give and give some more, and try to perfect yourself.  You cannot stop.

cossottoIV:    And you have to think of your career. It’s very critical that you think of your career from your thirties to your forties, rather than from your twenties to your thirties.  That’s the most important thing.

FC:    One suggestion that I would like to give is that you really have to love this music and the art of opera very, very much to start a career.  Otherwise you won’t do much.  You shouldn’t even begin doing it because there’s a lot of suffering in the opera and in an operatic career. 

BD:    Is something like the Opera School here in Chicago a good idea?

FC:    It’s a good idea and it’s indispensable for a big theater.  It’s the only way, and the good way of creating new artists. 

IV:    In fact, we both come from the La Scala school for young artists. 

BD:    I Cadetti della Scala
[The Cadets of La Scala, now known as The Academy of La Scala]

FC:    Yes, I Cadetti.

IV:    In sports you always have the A team and the reserve team, and when the occasion comes, someone from the B team gets moved up to the A team.  Also the young artists have the chance of learning from the established artists, to see them rehearse.  I was talking here to the young artists and who come to me and also to Pavarotti and to the others, and ask for advice and suggestions of how to establish themselves in opera.  It is very important that the young artists have this kind of verbal exchange of opinions and of advice with the older, more established artists.  That is the best investment a theater can make in young singers.

BD:    Are you optimistic about the future of opera?

Both:    Sure!

IV:    The same way as museums exist, opera will continue to exist!

BD:    Thank you both for coming back to Chicago!

FC:    I would like to really thank Ardis Krainik who gave me the chance of coming back to Chicago in Aïda after all this time, to sing again with the Chicago company.  All the people here make this a very good theater, and for me it’s like coming back home after all this time to come back to Chicago.  We are both particularly fond of Chicago because it was the first American city in which we sang.  So in America, Chicago is our favorite!  We hope we can come back again.

IV:    Fiorenza was very worried about her Chicago debut because she was very afraid of a lady who was doing the reviewing at the time [Claudia Cassidy in the Tribune].  However, she became very enthusiastic of Fiorenza.  Two days after the opening, she met a baritone who was involved in another opera here, and he asked her if she read the papers or saw the reviews?  We did not speak or read English, but the baritone said she’ll have to buy ten pounds of those papers because she’ll never see another review like that!   It said in part,
Cossotto’s voice entered the theater, and every sound and every note of Cossotto’s voice reached the theater, reached the audience, and went back into the stage and was resplendent as the Italian sun!  She always says she was very grateful because of the great psychological support for her in America.  It helped her a lot in the States, this kind of enthusiastic reception by Claudia Cassidy.

BD:    All of your performances that I’ve seen I’ve enjoyed in the theater, and the records have been excellent. 

FC:    My voice is better in a live performance than it is on the records.  On records we feel that our voices have to be the same volume as the other singers, so they tone down our voices and push up other voices.  So it takes away a lot from my voice and power, and the color of the voice loses something when they turn it down, as they tend to do.  I have had a lot of fights because of turning her down.  I always said,
Why don’t you put me far away and leave my voice as it sounds instead of cutting it down! 

BD:    [Staying hopeful]  I hope you are pleased with some of them, at least.

FC:    Oh yes.  I have just finished the recording of I Cavalieri di Ekebù by Zandonai, and the mezzo role is the leading role, and a beautiful role.  [The world premiere in 1925 was conducted by Toscanini.]


BD:    Thank you so much for spending this time today.  Mille grazie.

FC:    Thank you.  I had a very good time here.  I was very relaxed and it was very enjoyable.  It was lots of fun!


© 1983 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded backstage at the Civic Opera House in Chicago on September 29, 1983.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB 1995, 1997, and 2000.  A portion was included in a brief article I wrote for the April 1985 issue of the WNIB Program Guide.  My thanks for Marina Vecci for providing the translation during the conversation.  This transcription was made in 2015, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.